Over the summer UCLA players took their ease in Canada and Mexico while Coach John Wooden conducted clinics in Alaska and Spain. Though history's most successful coach spent time driving dogsleds through the Klondike and going barefoot in the Mediterranean rather than being chosen to coach the Olympic team (the USOC should again hang its head in shame), out-of-breath publishing types came running anyway. The result is a spate of Wooden books that will hit the market sometime between Christmas and Groundhog Day. Or right about the time UCLA should be roaring toward one of the most remarkable records in sport: 60 consecutive victories.
Having concluded That Championship Season for the sixth year in a row (and eight of the last nine), having gone undefeated (30-0) for the third time and won 32 straight NCAA tournament games and having invented the pompon girl, all that is left for the Bruins is to puff the magic 60. If all goes well they would do that on Jan. 27 at Notre Dame, which is back home in Indiana where it all started for Wooden ages ago.
As always, UCLA is well prepared. Though Henry Bibby's long-range bombing is gone, the Bruins are so deep and talented his departure will hardly be noticed. Formerly, opponents had to honor Bibby from outside and play an honest game inside. Now more deep zones will collapse on the big men and challenge somebody to fling the long ones. That somebody might be 6'11" Swen Nater, the rage of the Olympic team before he nearly starved to death in training camp and blew the joint for the nearest cheeseburger house. If Nater gets rag arm from too many shots or rag mouth from too few French fries, there is Ralph Drollinger, a skinny 7' freshman who has a nice touch but not enough muscle.
Wooden will continue his swarming "containment" defense and one-guard-with-wingmen offense. The rebounding wing is Dave Meyers, a local boy whom Wooden calls "my gangly colt—he's getting it together." Contesting the point position are Tommy Curtis, the bowlegged fireball who ignited the Bruins to their NCAA title victory over Florida State last March, and sophomore Andre McCarter. Curtis, "an inspirational, crazy guy" according to one teammate, never lets a team rest—his own or the opponents'; he is probably ahead of McCarter, who has as much physical equipment as any backcourt man in the land. At the shooting wing senior Larry Hollyfield has experience and 40 pounds on sophomore Pete Trgovich, whose floppy body, Serbian features and innovative moves are the image of another Pete named Maravich.
All are so good that two of them, probably Hollyfield and maybe Curtis, could even make the first team. Oh, you noticed that—a few names missing. Well, it is true. UCLA's second team could be ranked No. 1. As it is, the scrubs on this possibly best of all teams will have to watch Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Larry Farmer and Greg Lee run up the scores before they get in to mop up. It looks like another season to write a book about.
Yearly, Florida State has the only collegiate circus in the nation. Called Flying High, it is described by university publicists as a year-round extravaganza designed to delight folks from eight to 80, and apparently it does. In spring it plays at Tallahassee, home of the Seminoles, and in summer it moves up north to Callaway Gardens in Georgia.
The name of the show could just as well be applied to the FSU basketball team, which has been flying high and delighting its fans ever since it soared into last season's NCAA final. The team uses no trapezes, to be sure, but it has a cast that includes a King and a Cole and together they are making Coach Hugh Durham a merry old soul. King's first name is Ron and his high-arching shots last year were strictly out of the Karl Wallenda playbook. When Durham wants to expand on the act, he sends Otis Cole out on the wing, from which far-off vantage spot he provides his own occasional spectacular.
Four starters return from the cool and collected team that lost by only five points to UCLA. It was the closest any school had come to the Bruins in the national championship game in light years.